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New study finds beef, soybeans, palm oil and wood products are responsible for 40% of global deforestation

Growing world population drives the demand for food, feed and fiber. And since no country can produce all the products we now can buy in supermarkets, this demand is met through the export of agricultural commodities on the global market. Partly, the global demand is met through a rising productivity on the already established agricultural land. Partly, and more so in the tropical regions, the trend is to clear room for new plantations and pastures by getting rid of tropical forests and other natural vegetation.

So is it safe to assume that consumption of agricultural commodities drives deforestation in tropical regions? Up till now the research community didn’t have hard numbers on how domestic consumption and their export to non-tropical regions affects tropical deforestation in the producer countries.

Focali researchers, Sabine Henders and Martin Persson, together with their colleague Thomas Kastner aim to change this status quo. In their recent study they quantified the loss of tropical forest area as well as carbon emissions due to change in land use from the production of the four commodities that are both exported and traded on the domestic market: beef, soybeans, palm oil and wood products. The study covers 11 years, from 2000 to 2011, and includes seven countries with high deforestation rates: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea.

Researchers calculated deforestation rates, land–use change and carbon footprints and combined it with traces of trade flows from the producing region to the final consumer markets. The results reveal that these four commodities made up 40% of global deforestation and 44% of associated carbon emission. In other words, a few commodities in a handful of countries are responsible for a substantial share of total tropical forest loss.

Want to learn more?

Read the full article here.

Get to know about this research in brief with the Focali publication “Agricultural commodity consumption and trade responsible for over 40% of tropical deforestation” based on this article.

Watch this Focali video with Martin Persson about the key findings in their article.

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